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Tools to help compare award letters

When your student receives college award letters in the mail, comparing them may seem tricky. Not every school uses the exact same terminology and there is no standardized format. There are some easy-to-use online tools that can help you and your student really see what you’re getting in an award letter:

Financial aid calculators

  • Finaid.org has a helpful calculator which can compare up to three school award letters. Plug in the numbers to this calculator and you’ll receive detailed award letter analysis, including a total of various net costs, including self-help and out-of-pocket costs. You’ll also see your estimated monthly loan payments, lifetime interest and fees, and the ideal income required to repay student loans comfortably. Now that’s valuable analysis for your student to consider before deciding on a school.
  • CollegeBoard has a calculator which can compare aid from up to four schools. Again, you simply enter the numbers from your student’s award letters and you’ll get information including comparisons of cost of attendance, family share costs, and breakdown percentages of gift aid, loans and earned through work.

These calculators are great tools to help you truly make a side-by-side comparison of award letters from different schools. Even if your student only has one award letter, it may be worth entering the information from your award letter just to get the breakout of what aid is actually being offered, detailed analysis of what your student loan payments might be, and what kind of income is necessary to support repayment after college.

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Caroline Hanson
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Caroline Hanson

Communications Consultant at Wells Fargo
Copywriter at Wells Fargo.

She’s experienced in planning and paying for college both as a student and parent. With one child through college and two more a few years away from it, she is right there with you on the college-planning journey. A creative pro with years logged in journalism, public relations, and marketing, she’s been writing for the College Planning Blog since its launch in 2006.
Caroline Hanson
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